Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined 35 members of the U.S. Senate and 161 members of the U.S. House of Representatives fin filing an amicus brief in the case of June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, which is currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States and represents a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. 

June Medical Services LLC v. Gee addresses the impact of Louisiana’s Act 620, an extreme anti-abortion law that forces abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The law provides no medical benefit and would harm patients by stifling access to abortion care. If the law goes into effect, only one clinic and one abortion provider would remain in Louisiana – a state with over 360,000 women of reproductive age.

“Act 620, disguised as an effort to promote women’s health, provides no medical benefit and instead will only create significant obstacles for women seeking abortions,” the lawmakers wrote in the brief. 

Lawmakers emphasized in the brief that, just three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court struck down a materially identical Texas law because it imposed significant burdens on abortion access without providing health or safety benefits. Since then, the facts, the law and the Constitution have remained the same. Lawmakers urged the court to uphold its precedent in Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health and strike down Act 620.

“There is no compelling reason here to upend this settled precedent, and no change of circumstances between Whole Woman’s Health and this action that justifies a different outcome … Laws like Act 620, enacted in defiance of this Court’s constitutional pronouncements, undermine our nation’s confidence in the legislative process and the rule of law,” wrote the lawmakers in the brief.

Read the amicus brief here.  

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police in 2017. The FBI announced the conclusion to its lengthy investigation last week, but did not fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar.

The senators have long sought transparency into the circumstances surrounding the deadly use of force and the FBI’s review of the case, but the FBI largely declined to provide details at the time, citing an ongoing investigation. Now that the investigation has concluded, the senators are demanding greater clarity to provide needed transparency and preserve the public trust.

“Despite nearly two years of investigating this incident in which considerable FBI resources were used, the Ghaisar family, Congress, and the general public still do not have all the answers.  The FBI needs to provide a full and thorough account of the events that led to Mr. Ghaisar’s untimely death,” the Senators wrote.

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

Grassley, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contacted the FBI about the investigation in December of 2018. The FBI responded in March with little information, provoking a follow-up letter from Grassley.

In June, Grassley and Warner decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. The FBI provided a brief response in August, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

Following the recent conclusion of the FBI’s investigation, the senators pledged to seek greater transparency. Full text of the senators’ official request for a briefing follows. A copy of the letter is available here.

 

November 20, 2019

The Honorable Christopher Wray

Director

Federal Bureau of Investigations

Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Wray:

We write today to request a briefing and a response to Senator Warner’s letter from January 30, 2018, Senator Grassley’s letters from December 17, 2018, and March 22, 2019, and the Senators’ joint letter from June 18, 2019, on the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar.  While the FBI has announced it has concluded its investigation into the shooting of Mr. Ghaisar, the FBI has continuously refused to answer several questions that were raised in the aforementioned letters because the investigation had yet to conclude.  Now that the investigation has concluded, we expect to receive answers to these questions and a briefing on the FBI’s investigative process and findings. 

Investigations into the use of deadly force must be handled in a way that reinforces public confidence in law enforcement.  Following completion of these types of investigations, it is necessary for investigators to be fully transparent to ensure that the public understands the circumstances of each incident.  This creates transparency and builds public trust in law enforcement.  Despite nearly two years of investigating this incident in which considerable FBI resources were used, the Ghaisar family, Congress, and the general public still do not have all the answers.  The FBI needs to provide a full and thorough account of the events that led to Mr. Ghaisar’s untimely death.

In order to shed light on this delicate situation, we ask that you respond to Senator Grassley’s and Warner’s letters and provide us with a briefing summarizing the findings of this investigation by no later than December 15, 2019.   Additionally, we ask that you please arrange a time to provide our staffs with a briefing no later than December 6, 2019.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

Mark Warner

United States Senator

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in sponsoring a bipartisan Senate resolution (S.J. Res. 6) that would immediately remove the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Following this month’s elections in Virginia, the Commonwealth is poised to be the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA. If ratified, the ERA would finally guarantee full and equal protections to women in the Constitution.

“More than 96 years after the Equal Rights Amendment was first proposed, Virginia is about to take a giant step forward for women’s equality by becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA,” Warner said. “This resolution will ensure that, even though this fight took decades, women’s equality will finally be fully and expressly recognized in our Constitution.” 

“This year marks the 100th anniversary of passage of the 19th amendment, yet women are still not explicitly recognized as equal under our Constitution,” said Kaine. “This resolution would ensure there’s still time to ratify the ERA, which will finally guarantee equal protections to women and strengthen our ability to fight gender discrimination. I hope Virginia will make history by becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA.”

“Thank you to Senators Warner and Kaine for their strong support of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex.  Today I filed my first bill for the 2020 General Assembly Session, to make Virginia the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, guaranteeing women the same legal rights and protections as men under the law. Our Commonwealth stands poised to make history – and with champions like Senator Warner and Senator Kaine in Washington, we can finally make sure that the Equal Rights Amendment becomes a part of the U.S. Constitution,” said State Senator Jennifer McClellan, who filed a resolution in the Virginia Senate today to ratify the ERA. 

“Having worked with so many activists across the Commonwealth on two ERA bus tours, I know how important this issue is to women across Virginia. And as one of the first women to graduate from Virginia Military Institute, this fight is personal. It's time to enshrine women’s fundamental rights in the United States Constitution, and I thank Senators Warner and Kaine for being steadfast advocates for equality,” said State Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, who filed a resolution in the Virginia House of Delegates today to ratify the ERA.

Thirty-seven states, of the 38 needed, have already ratified the amendment, which Congress approved in 1972. Only one more state is needed among Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah. The Virginia Senate passed a federal Equal Rights Amendment measure in January, but it was blocked by the then Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates. With both chambers now under Democratic control, Virginia is expected to soon become the 38th state to ratify the ERA.

The bipartisan U.S. Senate resolution (S.J. Res. 6) supported by Warner and Kaine would immediately remove the ratification deadline, paving the way for full and equal protections to women in the Constitution. Article V of the Constitution contains no time limits for ratification of amendments, and the states finally ratified the Twenty-Seventh Amendment in 1992 regarding Congressional pay raises more than 200 years after Congress proposed it in 1789 as part of the original Bill of Rights. The ERA time limit was contained in a joint resolution, not the actual text of the amendment, and Congress has already once voted to extend the ERA ratification deadline. The bipartisan resolution sponsored by Warner and Kaine would put to bed any potential ambiguity over adding the ERA to the Constitution once Virginia becomes the 38th state to ratify.

 

The Equal Rights Amendment would finally give women full and equal protection under the Constitution. It reads as follows:

  • Section 1.  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • Section 2.  The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  • Section 3.  This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today issued the following statement after an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that it will not pursue action against the U.S. Park Police officers who shot and killed Fairfax County resident Bijan Ghaisar in 2017:

“The Ghaisar family has experienced so much pain over the last two years, not just in coping with the loss of their beloved son and brother Bijan, but also in trying to understand what led to his death. Today’s announcement by the Department of Justice that it will not be pursuing federal civil rights criminal charges against the police officers who shot and killed an unarmed man will only add to this family’s heartbreak. The Department’s statement also adds to the long list of questions that remain unanswered years later, despite a two-year investigation.

“The Ghaisars deserve to understand what happened to Bijan. To that end, we will be formally requesting a briefing within the next 30 days from the Department of Justice to understand what went into the decision not to pursue charges in this case.  We will continue to closely follow this case, including whether state or local charges are filed, or an internal affairs investigation is opened.”

Earlier this month, Sens. Warner and Grassley wrote to the acting director of the National Park Service with a series of questions regarding the U.S. Park Police’s policies and guidelines around officer-involved shooting incidents and vehicle pursuit, and the Ghaisar investigation. Additionally, in June, the Senators called on the FBI and the National Park Service to improve transparency surrounding their review of the Ghaisar shooting. In January 2018, Sen. Warner, along with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the Ghaisar shooting. That April, the FBI responded that it would not discuss an active investigation. Sen. Warner has also pressed the National Park Service regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar, and has talked with leaders from both the National Park Service and the FBI to encourage full transparency regarding this incident.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein and all of their Democratic colleagues in introducing the Senate companion to the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The bill, which would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through 2024, provides essential protections and resources to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The legislation preserves advancements made in previous reauthorizations and includes a number of additional improvements to the current law. 

“Unfortunately, in today’s society, there’s so much more we must do to combat violence against women. This legislation passed the House with bipartisan support and we need to do the same in the Senate. We’re calling on our colleagues to help us swiftly pass this bill to protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse,” the Senators said. 

Key provisions in the bill:

  • Protects Native American women by improving tribal access to federal crime information databases and reaffirming tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking for all federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaskan Natives.
  • Explicitly states that grant recipients are allowed to train staff and others on identifying and stopping discrimination against LGBT individuals. Service providers currently remain uncertain about whether they can use grants to train for this. 
  • Reauthorizes and updates the SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence, help children who have been exposed to violence, and engage men in preventing violence.
  • Expands grants under the Public Health Service Act to support implementation of training programs to improve the capacity of early childhood programs to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking among the families they serve.
  • Provides services, protection, and justice for young victims of violence, including extending the Rape Prevention and Education grant program, addressing bullying of young people, improving grants focused on prevention education for students and expanding relevant training for school-based and campus health centers.
  • Preserves and expands housing protections for survivors.
  • Provides economic security assistance for survivors by reauthorizing the National Resource Center on Workplace Responses. Protects employees from being fired because they are survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence and protects survivors’ eligibility to receive unemployment insurance.
  • Enhances judicial and law enforcement tools through reauthorization of the Justice Department’s STOP Violence Against Women Formula Program, known as the STOP Program. Authorizes the use of STOP Program grants to expand the use of grant funding for programs focused on increasing survivor, law enforcement, and community safety; increase legal assistance for dependent children in appropriate circumstances; and develop and enforce firearm surrender policies.
  • Protects the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women from being merged or consolidated into any other Department office.
  • Helps prevent “intimate partner” homicides by including provisions expanding firearms laws to prohibit persons convicted of dating violence from possessing firearms, prohibiting persons convicted of stalking from possessing firearms, and prohibiting individuals subject to ex parte protective orders from possessing firearms.

Warner and Kaine have long supported victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. As Governor of Virginia, Kaine made curbing violence a top priority by convening the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence and implementing numerous recommendations. Some of the reforms included updating domestic violence laws, improving treatment of victims, and providing additional resources to first responders. In 2011, a census of domestic violence shelters and services found that 1,304 domestic violence victims were served in just one day in Virginia.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of bipartisan legislation to fund federal programs critical to Virginia under the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Interior (DOI). 

On a bipartisan 84-9 vote, the Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations package that covers funding for Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD); Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS); Interior and Environment; and all of their related agencies. Warner and Kaine pushed for many Virginia priorities through the appropriations process and have long pressed the Senate to return to regular budget order to make sure there are no gaps in funding that could cause a government shutdown.

“I’m pleased to see the passage of this bipartisan legislation, which includes significant support for Virginia priorities,” Warner said. “This bill provides much-needed resources for ongoing Chesapeake Bay restoration and cleanup efforts. It also supports investments to the Metro system that are critical to the capital region, and vital funding to support families across the Commonwealth. I’m also pleased that this bill includes my provision to give Congress more clarity on the Department of Justice’s progress on Ashanti Alert implementation. As we move forward, it’s my hope that my colleagues in both the House and the Senate will continue fighting to ensure the Ashanti Alert implementation is a priority for this Administration.”

“Each year, I’m proud to help secure federal funding that will strengthen the economy and improve the lives of Virginians,” Kaine said. “I’m pleased that again, key Virginia priorities we made the case for – like funding to promote a healthy Chesapeake Bay, improve daily commutes, and support economic development in coal communities – were included in the appropriations package passed by the Senate. I hope Congress passes a final appropriations bill quickly so that Virginians benefit from this funding without delay.” 

The following list includes many of the provisions Senators Warner and Kaine supported on behalf of Virginia that were included in the appropriations package:

  • Ashanti Alert System: The bill includes a provision supported by both Senators that forces the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide Congress with a progress report of the Ashanti Alert implementation 30 days immediately after the appropriations bill is signed into law. Additionally, the amendment requires that the DOJ establish a deadline for full implementation no later than 90 days after the enactment of the Ashanti Alert Act, which creates an alert system for missing or endangered adults ages 18-64.
  • Broadband Grants: The bill provides $30 million to fund a grant program administered by the Rural Utilities Service that brings critical services to some of the most rural, underserved areas in America. The program provides financing to support new or improved broadband access across rural America and enable telecommunications providers to fill gaps where there is little or no broadband service. Broadband access has become a critical part of basic economic infrastructure for Virginians and is vital for job creation.
  • WMATA: The bill includes the full federal funding of $150 million for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) capital improvement. Warner and Kaine previously urged Senate appropriators to provide additional funding to WMATA to address the safety maintenance backlog. In May, the Senators introduced legislation to renew the federal funding commitment to Metro, provide critical safety reforms, and strengthen oversight of WMATA.
  • Child Nutrition: The bill provides $23.6 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, including $30 million for school equipment grants and $28 million for Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). The Summer EBT program helps reach communities in Virginia that face barriers to participation in traditional summer food service programs and reduce rates of food insecurity among children.
  • Rural Water Infrastructure: The bill maintains $1.4 billion in water and waste direct loans and $549 million in water and waste grants to support quality of life in rural communities.
  • 400 Years of African American History Commemoration: The bill provides $500,000 for the commission to commemorate 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to English Colonial America at Point Comfort, Virginia and honor four centuries of African American history. The Senators sponsored legislation, which was signed into law in 2018, to establish the commission. 
  • Chesapeake Bay: The bill provides $76 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership that directs and conducts the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. It also includes $3 million for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, which helps increase public access and the use of ecological, cultural, and historic resources of the Chesapeake region.
  • National Park Service: The bill provides $2.56 billion for operations of the National Park Service. In 2017, more than 24 million individuals visited Virginia’s National Parks. National Park Service assets also fill critical transportation needs for Virginians, such as the Arlington Memorial Bridge, connecting Northern Virginia with the District of Columbia. The bill also provides $1.25 billion for bridge repair and replacement, $100 million for nationally significant federal transportation assets, and $100 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System. This funding could help with Virginia's backlogged maintenance needs at Colonial National Historical Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as long overdue needs on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Senator Warner has sponsored legislation, cosponsored by Kaine, to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service, half of which is transportation needs.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The bill provides $465 million for LWCF, which has helped preserve forests, trails, wildlife refuges, historic battlefields, and Chesapeake Bay lands and waters in Virginia. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the Virginia outdoors industry supports approximately $21.9 billion in annual consumer spending and 197,000 direct jobs.
  • Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund: The bill provides $139.7 million for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to remediate environmental contamination, rehabilitate sites for economically productive use, and support jobs in the process. Warner and Kaine spearheaded legislation earlier this year that would release $1 billion from the remaining, unappropriated balance in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to states to be spent on reclamation projects in communities impacted by abandoned mine lands and the recent decrease in coal mining production. 
  • Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG): CDBG helps communities develop projects that meet unique housing, infrastructure, and economic development needs and supports job creation. The bill provides $3.325 billion for CDBG. The bill rejects the President’s proposals to increase rent for public housing residents and protects critical sources of funding for affordable housing such as the HOME program. Senators Warner and Kaine have strongly opposed President Trump’s efforts to cut funding for affordable housing.
  • BUILD Infrastructure Grants: The bill provides $1 billion for competitive transportation grants through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program, formerly known as “TIGER” grants. Virginia has previously used these grants for projects including I-95 Express Lanes, I-564 connector from Norfolk International Terminals at the Port of Virginia, I-64 Delta Frames Bridges in Rockbridge County, the Pulse bus-rapid transit system in Richmond, and Northstar Boulevard in Loudoun County near Dulles.
  • Remote Tower System: The bill provides $9.5 million for the FAA to continue its remote tower systems pilot program at smaller airports. As part of the program, air traffic controllers are able to work remotely, which could help ease capacity and staffing constraints. This would support the Remote Tower Center partnership between Leesburg Executive Airport and Saab Technologies, as well as similar remote tower pilot projects being developed around the country.
  • Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT): The bill fully funds the PILT program, estimated to be around $500 million, in order to help local governments offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries. In FY2019, Virginia received roughly $5.8 million from PILT, of which the largest recipients were Augusta, Rockingham, Bath, Alleghany, and Craig Counties.
  • Virginia Tribes: In 2018, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, legislation introduced by Senators Warner and Kaine that granted federal recognition to six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond. The appropriations bill provides $1.281 million to continue to help Virginia tribes access the federal resources available to them after their successful, decades-long effort to secure federal recognition. It also includes an additional $11.5 million for delivery of health care services for Virginia tribes.
  • Hemp: The bill provides $16.5 million in new funding to implement the Hemp Production Program, which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Senators Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of hemp as an agricultural commodity. The Farm Bill included a provision sponsored by both Senators that removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as a commodity for use in agriculture, textile, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverage, paper, personal care, and construction products. The bill also includes $2 million for the FDA to research and develop policies on CBD.

###

WASHINGTON – Frustrated by repeated delays and inaction by the Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) successfully pushed for the inclusion of an amendment to the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act that would force the DOJ to report to Congress a date for the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert.

“Every day that the Department of Justice delays in getting this alert system up and running, we fail in providing our law enforcement the tools they need to help save lives,” said Sen. Warner. “Frankly, there is no excuse for the DOJ’s failure to follow through on implementing the Ashanti Alert system or even provide a timeline for when it will be operational. With the inclusion of this amendment, the DOJ will finally have to provide some answers for the Billie family and those who’ve pushed for this lifesaving alert.”

The amendment will be included as part of the “minibus II” funding package that funds several federal agencies, including the DOJ. It forces the DOJ to provide Congress with a progress report of the Ashanti Alert implementation 30 days immediately after the bill is signed into law. Additionally, the amendment requires that the DOJ establish a deadline for full implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act no later than 90 days after the enactment of this bill. Following today’s Senate passage, Sen. Warner will continue to push the provision forward as the House of Representatives and Congress work through the spending bill process.

Sen. Warner’s amendment was also cosponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Sen. Warner, who secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate on December 6, 2018, has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert. In August, he reiterated the need for the alert’s swift implementation, following a meeting with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sullivan. He has also previously demanded in-person meetings with the DOJ, repeatedly pressed the DOJ for implementation updates, and urged congressional appropriators to provide full funding for the timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert.

The amendment language can be found here.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) expressed his frustration today over repeated delays and inaction by the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was signed into law more than nine months ago, after passing through Congress in a bipartisan fashion. In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Sen. Warner demanded a firm deadline for the national launch of the Ashanti Alert system, and called the DOJ’s inaction and lack of communication “unacceptable.”

“The delayed implementation of this critical public safety program is costing lives,” wrote Sen. Warner. “In our meeting, Ms. Sullivan had shared with me a number of concrete steps she would be taking to speed up implementation, and relayed she understood the importance of getting this alert system up and running in each state. However, in the two months since that meeting, there has been little progress on any of the items we spoke about. As well, the Department has subsequently failed to provide my office with any tangible updates or information in follow up emails.”

“One of my major concerns is that despite my urging, there has been no outreach to relevant officials in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who successfully helped implement a Virginia Ashanti Alert system in only three months. Delaying these key conversations regarding best practices will only slow implementation of this life-saving system,” Sen. Warner continued. “The lack of movement on implementing this critical alert system, and the lack of communication with my office is unacceptable.”

The Ashanti Alert Law is named after Ashanti Billie – a 19-year-old whose body was discovered in North Carolina, 11 days after she was first reported missing in Norfolk, Va. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an AMBER Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. Once implemented, the Ashanti Alert would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, and assist law enforcement in the search by way of a national communications network.

In the letter, Sen. Warner cited his numerous unanswered requests for updates and called on the DOJ to provide any further information on Ashanti Alert implementation efforts by October 11, 2019. He also requested a firm deadline for the national launch of the Ashanti Alert system.

Sen. Warner, who secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate on December 6, 2018, has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert. In August, he reiterated the need for the alert’s swift implementation, following a meeting with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sullivan. He has also previously demanded in-person meetings with the DOJ, requested implementation updates, and urged congressional appropriators to provide full funding for the timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert.

Text of this letter can be found below and a PDF is available here.

 

October 4, 2019

The Honorable William P. Barr

The Attorney General

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530

Dear Attorney General Barr:

Over nine months ago, President Trump signed the Ashanti Alert Act (P.L.115-401) into law. I write to you for a third time about delayed efforts by the Department of Justice to get this crucial system implemented in a timely manner. This week marks two years since 19-year-old Ashanti Billie was found murdered – 11 days after she was initially reported missing.  Because of Ashanti’s age, she did not qualify for AMBER or Silver Alerts and thus critical resources were not used to locate her whereabouts. This bipartisan bill passed with support from numerous organizations including the National Association of Police Organizations and the National Association to PROTECT Children. The delayed implementation of this critical public safety program is costing lives.    

On July 29th, I met with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katherine Sullivan, who is also serving as the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, to express my concern about the delay and talk to her about next steps. I sent her a follow-up letter in early August memorializing our conversation, and agreed upon next steps. In our meeting, Ms. Sullivan had shared with me a number of concrete steps she would be taking to speed up implementation, and relayed she understood the importance of getting this alert system up and running in each state. However, in the two months since that meeting, there has been little progress on any of the items we spoke about. As well, the Department has subsequently failed to provide my office with any tangible updates or information in follow up emails.

One of my major concerns is that despite my urging, there has been no outreach to relevant officials in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who successfully helped implement a Virginia Ashanti Alert system in only three months. Delaying these key conversations regarding best practices will only slow implementation of this life-saving system. Below, for your information is a short timeline of the follow-up my staff has done, and the relevant responses my staff has received:

  • On August 6, 2019, my staff emailed the Department to share contacts with the Virginia State Police who would be happy to talk with the Department about how to best work with states to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide. My staff also requested an update on a meeting with the CTIA The Wireless Association, and asked if there had been further conversations with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). Both are topics about which Ms. Sullivan and I spoke.
  • On August 22, 2019, my staff once again asked for updates on the CTIA and COPS meetings, as well as whether the Department had spoken with the Virginia State Police to utilize its expertise. Additionally, we asked for a contact at the Department to share with another state interested in setting up a system similar to the Ashanti Alert.
  • On August 29, 2019, my staffed asked yet again for the above information.
  • On September 10, 2019, more than one month after my meeting with Ms. Sullivan, my staff asked a fourth time for the above items about which Ms. Sullivan and I spoke. We also requested an update on the Ashanti Alert implementation status.
  • On September 24, 2019 and September 30, 2019, my staff requested these answers for a fifth and sixth time. We have since received the Department contacts as well as information that the CTIA meeting was replaced with a meeting with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The lack of movement on implementing this critical alert system, and the lack of communication with my office is unacceptable. Thus, I am asking for a response from the Department regarding next steps. Please respond to my office no later than Thursday, October 11, 2019 with details on the following questions:

  • Are there any further updates on the Ashanti Alert implementation efforts? If so, please provide a detailed update on these efforts.
  • Has the Department contacted relevant Virginia officials to discuss how the Commonwealth successfully implemented an Ashanti Act system? If so, please provide a detailed update on these conversations. If not, please explain the delay.
  • Are there any further updates regarding the Ashanti Act implementation meeting(s) between the Department and the FCC? If so, please provide a detailed update on these meetings.

Finally, I would like a firm deadline for the national launch of the Ashanti Alert system. Further delay of this critical public safety program will only cost lives. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your expeditious response.

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to Ashanti Alert Coordinator Katherine Sullivan, reiterating the need for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to get the national communication network swiftly up-and-running. This letter follows a July 29th in-person meeting between Sen. Warner and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sullivan.

“As I stated during our conversation, I remain strongly committed to monitoring its implementation and ensuring that the network can start saving lives soon. It was heartening to hear that as designated national coordinator, you are committed to swiftly implementing this potentially lifesaving system by working in collaboration with states to ensure that Ashanti Alert systems are established across the country with proper network guidelines,” wrote Sen. Warner.

After DOJ indicated that little progress had been made on the implementation of the federal Ashanti Alert system in March, Sen. Warner demanded an in-person meeting with DOJ officials to discuss the status of implementation efforts. During the meeting, Sen. Warner urged the DOJ to consult with Virginia state and local officials who passed state-wide legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and successfully implemented it three months after it was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.

“Last year, Virginia successfully established its own Ashanti Alert system in only three months. Since then, the Commonwealth has sent out a number of alerts, some of which have helped find missing or endangered adults alive in under 24 hours. As we discussed, I believe that the officials in Virginia could provide valuable guidance to you and other states, so I urge you to seek out their guidance regarding this matter,” continued Sen. Warner.

On December 20th 2018, Sen. Warner successfully secured Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was then signed into law later in the month. Ever since, he has continued to pressure the DOJ to work with relevant stakeholders to promptly implement the alert network nationwide to help save lives.

“I was glad to hear that you have already thought about some actionable ideas on implementation, including your suggestion to include an Ashanti Alert workshop in the next national Amber Alert symposium. However, I continue to expect the Department to identify additional avenues and strategies to speed up the implementation process, while consulting with law enforcement agencies, stakeholders, and other relevant entities who played roles during the adoption of the Amber and Silver alerts,” concluded Sen. Warner.

A copy of the letter can be found here or below.

 

Ms. Katherine Sullivan

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530

Dear Ms. Sullivan:

I appreciated our meeting on July 29, 2019 regarding the implementation status of the Ashanti Alert Act. As I stated during our conversation, I remain strongly committed to monitoring its implementation and ensuring that the network can start saving lives soon. It was heartening to hear that as designated national coordinator, you are committed to swiftly implementing this potentially lifesaving system by working in collaboration with states to ensure that Ashanti Alert systems are established across the country with proper network guidelines.

As I emphasized in our meeting, it has been almost eight months since President Trump signed the bill into law. I have been disappointed that the Department’s efforts thus far have made little progress on the alert system and I must reiterate that delayed implementation will only cost lives. Last year, Virginia successfully established its own Ashanti Alert system in only three months. Since then, the Commonwealth has sent out a number of alerts, some of which have helped find missing or endangered adults alive in under 24 hours. As we discussed, I believe that the officials in Virginia could provide valuable guidance to you and other states, so I urge you to seek out their guidance regarding this matter.

I was glad to hear that you have already thought about some actionable ideas on implementation, including your suggestion to include an Ashanti Alert workshop in the next national Amber Alert symposium. However, I continue to expect the Department to identify additional avenues and strategies to speed up the implementation process, while consulting with law enforcement agencies, stakeholders, and other relevant entities who played roles during the adoption of the Amber and Silver alerts.

I look forward to your timely updates on implementation efforts. Thank you for prioritizing the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act and fully leveraging this opportunity to transform the lives and safety of Americans.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting an in-person meeting to get the timeline for the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert system, as required by legislation passed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018.

In March, Sen. Warner wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the alert system. In response to Sen. Warner’s letter, the DOJ indicated that little progress had been made on the implementation of the federal Ashanti Alert system, with only a program coordinator and internal working group members identified. No timeline for a full implementation was provided. Additionally, in April, Sen. Warner held a press conference with Del. Jay Jones and Ashanti Billie’s family urging the DOJ to move swiftly to implement the Ashanti Alert system.

“I am disheartened that over seven months after being signed into law, I have been unable to get appropriate answers from the Department on the status of implementation, including a briefing from the person who was supposed to be designated as the national coordinator. Thus, I am requesting an in-person meeting this month with key individuals responsible to discuss next steps of the implementation process. At this meeting I would hope to get a detailed timeline of the Department’s plans on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert communications network,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In the letter, Sen. Warner slammed the DOJ for making little-to-no progress on the Ashanti Alert communication network seven months after it was signed into law.

“President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401) on December 31, 2018. This law is critical to our nation’s efforts in saving the lives of missing adults. Given the urgency of improving public safety, I am especially frustrated at the Department of Justice’s slow pace of implementation of the law. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. While I understand that creating a nationwide alert system is a challenging undertaking, the current lack of progress is concerning and unacceptable. Virginia has led the way in fully implementing this critical alert system in a short period of time and now it is the federal government’s turn to act quickly and efficiently in order to start saving lives on a national level,” continued Sen. Warner.

The Ashanti Alert system is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because of Ashanti’s age, she did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert – tools utilized by law enforcement that make it easier for the public to assist in locating a missing person. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would create a new national communication system to notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems and assist law enforcement in the search.

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner also conveyed his concern that the DOJ has not yet appointed an Ashanti Alert Coordinator – the designee in charge of overseeing federal and state coordination of the system. In his letter, Sen. Warner asks whether a designated national coordinator has been appointed and if not, what is causing the delay.

A copy of the letter can be found here or below.

 

The Honorable William Barr 

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530

Dear Attorney General Barr:

I write yet again to request an update from the Department of Justice regarding the status of the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. I am disheartened that over seven months after being signed into law, I have been unable to get appropriate answers from the Department on the status of implementation, including a briefing from the person who was supposed to be designated as the national coordinator.

Thus, I am requesting an in-person meeting this month with key individuals responsible to discuss next steps of the implementation process. At this meeting I would hope to get a detailed timeline of the Department’s plans on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert communications network.

President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401) on December 31, 2018. This law is critical to our nation’s efforts in saving the lives of missing adults. Given the urgency of improving public safety, I am especially frustrated at the Department of Justice’s slow pace of implementation of the law. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. While I understand that creating a nationwide alert system is a challenging undertaking, the current lack of progress is concerning and unacceptable. Virginia has led the way in fully implementing this critical alert system in a short period of time and now it is the federal government’s turn to act quickly and efficiently in order to start saving lives on a national level.

The law requires the Attorney General to appoint a national coordinator for Ashanti Alerts. Called the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, he or she plays a pivotal role in the success of the alert network. Among other responsibilities, the Coordinator will work with state authorities and federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, on how to implement the program into existing alert systems and what protocols to use. However, according to conversations with staff from the Department of Justice, there is currently not an Ashanti Alert Coordinator appointed. Can you confirm whether you have designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort? If not, can you explain what has been causing the delay?

I am eager to receive an update from either the appointed Ashanti Alert Coordinator or senior officials at the Department of Justice who are overseeing the implementation efforts. Please respond with a plan and a meeting date for no later than August 2nd, 2019. If your staff have further questions or there is more I can do to help move implementation forward, please contact Elizabeth Falcone in my office at elizabeth_falcone@warner.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As incidents of hate crimes continue to rise, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. The legislation would improve hate crimes reporting and expand assistance and resources for victims of hate crimes. Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Pete Olson (R-TX) in the House of Representatives. 

“In 2017, Heather Heyer lost her life fighting the forces of hatred and white supremacy. But since the horrible events in Charlottesville nearly two years ago, we have continued to see an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes across the country,” said Warner. “We owe it to Heather and the victims of hate crimes everywhere to do everything we can to stamp out the voices of hatred that have been promoting violence against Jews, Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable Americans.” 

“We all need to come together to combat this onslaught of hate crimes. Virginians have seen too many horrific acts of hate, including when white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville and murdered Heather Heyer. Those of us in leadership need to stand up against hate and do everything in our power to support those who are hurt by it,” Kaine said

“The rise in hate crimes in the United States has reached epidemic proportions in the last few years, and we need law enforcement to have every possible tool to stop it,” said Beyer. “By tracking and reporting incidents of hate crimes nationwide, we can know whether we are making progress towards their prevention. I thank my colleague, Rep. Olson, for his leadership; this legislation has a real chance to move forward.” 

“Everyone knows my daughter’s name,” said Susan Bro, Heather Heyer’s mother. “Heather is everywhere—in the news, in our minds, in our hearts—but she’s not in the data, nor are the 35 people who were injured while marching alongside her in Charlottesville. If such a despicable act of hatred is not reflected in hate crime statistics, think of everything else that might be missing. The Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act is an important bill that will improve our response to hate crime, and I call on Congress to support this effort.”

“After Khalid was killed, our family released a statement expressing that his death was not just another murder to be added to crime statistics, that the circumstances surrounding his death laid bare the need for a better response from law enforcement and the justice system,” said Rami Jabara, Khalid Jabara’s brother. “In retrospect, we shouldn’t have assumed his death would be there reflected in the data, despite how straightforward that may have seemed. Congress must pass the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. No family should be subjected to what we endured and victims’ voices should be heard.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a sharp uptick in reported hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2016. Researchers have shown that reported hate crimes following President Trump’s election made up the second largest surge since the FBI began collecting data in 1992. Yet the FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report vastly understates the true incidence of this problem. In 2017, the report reflected that approximately 7,000 hate crimes occurred nationwide, when the SPLC believes the number is closer to approximately 250,000 per year.

The Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act would help combat the recent surge in hate crimes by:

  • Improving Reporting of Hate Crimes: This legislation will improve reporting of hate crimes by supporting the implementation of and training for NIBRS, the latest crime reporting standard, in law enforcement agencies without it. This will allow law enforcement agencies to record and report detailed information about crimes, including hate crimes, to the FBI. In 2016, of the 15,254 agencies that participated in reporting hate crimes to the FBI, nearly nine out of 10 reported zero hate crimes; in Mississippi, agencies reported just seven incidents in the entire state. Helping law enforcement agencies recognize and report detailed information on hate crimes and report that data to the FBI will help establish a clear picture of the threats that vulnerable communities are facing across the country.
  • Encouraging Law Enforcement Prevention, Training, and Education on Hate Crimes: This legislation will provide support to law enforcement agencies that establish a policy on identifying, investigating and reporting hate crimes, train officers on how to identify hate crimes, develop a system for collecting hate crimes data, establish a hate crimes unit within the agency, and engage in community relations to address hate crimes in that jurisdiction. 
  • Establishing Hate Crime Hotlines: This legislation will provide grants for states to establish and run hate crime hotlines, to record information about hate crimes, and to redirect victims and witnesses to law enforcement and local support services as needed. This will make sure that hate crimes don’t go unreported and victims get the help that they need. 
  • Allowing Judges to Require Community Service or Education for Perpetrators of Hate Crimes: This legislation will allow for judges to require individuals convicted under federal hate crime laws to undergo community service or education centered on the community targeted by the crime.

The bill is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union; the Arab American Institute; Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino; the Heather Heyer Foundation; Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights; the Matthew Shepard Foundation; Muslim Advocates; the National Center for Transgender Equality; the National Disability Rights Network; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT); and the Sikh Coalition.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Rossie David Alston, Jr. to serve on the Eastern District Court of Virginia. He will be the only African American judge serving in the Alexandria Division:

“We’re pleased that the Senate supported Judge Alston’s nomination for the Eastern District Court of Virginia,” the Senators said. “Based on his qualifications, we are confident he will serve with great distinction at the federal level.”

In December 2017, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Trump, recommending Judge Alston for the vacancy after an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth—selected by Warner and Kaine—interviewed applicants, including Judge Alston, for the position. Key members of the Virginia Bar spoke highly of Alston, who first joined the Commonwealth bench in 1998 and received an appointment to the Virginia Court of Appeals in 2009. The White House first nominated Alston in June 2018, and the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced his nomination in February 2019. The Eastern District of Virginia has offices in Alexandria, Richmond, Newport News, and Norfolk.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:

 “The President has granted sweeping declassification powers to an Attorney General who has already shown that he has no problem selectively releasing information in order to mislead the American people. People risk their lives to gather the intelligence material that President Trump and Attorney General Barr are so eager to politicize. Selectively declassifying sources and methods in order to serve a political agenda will make it harder for the intelligence community to do their jobs protecting this country from those who wish to do us harm.”   

 

Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in urging congressional appropriators to provide full funding for timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act – crucial bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018. The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults, filling a gap for missing persons who are too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert.

“This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion,” the Senators wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Full funding and timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act is necessary to ensure the safety of Americans.” 

The Ashanti Alert will notify the public about missing or endangered adults ages 18-64. The law instructs the Attorney General to designate a national Ashanti Alert Coordinator responsible for helping states establish alert systems and develop voluntary guidelines. Under the law, the coordinator is also tasked with providing Congress with an annual report detailing the use and progress of Ashanti Alerts in states. Last month, Sen. Warner pressed Attorney General William Barr for an update on DOJ’s progress to-date in implementing the law.  

The Ashanti Alert Act was named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017, whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate in December 6, 2018 by working with his colleagues to make modifications to the House bill, which had previously been blocked from passing the Senate. The bill was then signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2019.

 

Full text of the appropriations request is below and a copy can be found here.

 

The Honorable Jerry Moran

Chairman

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice,

Science and Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

142 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice,

Science and Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

142 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Shaheen:

 

As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations, we write to respectfully request that you work to ensure the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act is fully funded in FY 2020.

 

On December 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401). The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. Under the new law, the Attorney General must designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks. Last Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives secured strong bipartisan support for the legislation and it passed both chambers by a near-unanimous margin.

 

This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.

 

Thus, it is imperative that the Ashanti Alert Act receives sufficient funding in order to advance its goals of transforming the lives and safety of Americans. Fully funding this program ensures that the Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders have the necessary resources to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.

 

We hope that the Subcommittee will demonstrate strong support for the Ashanti Alert Act for FY 2020.

 

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

 

###

 

 

Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act – a piece of crucial bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018. The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults, filling a gap for missing persons who are too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert.

“It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives,” said Sen. Warner. “I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.” 

The Ashanti Alert will notify the public about missing or endangered adults ages 18-64. The law instructs the Attorney General to designate a national Ashanti Alert Coordinator responsible for helping states establish alert systems and develop voluntary guidelines. Under the law, the coordinator is also tasked with providing Congress with an annual report detailing the use and progress of Ashanti Alerts in states. 

In requesting a status update on DOJ’s implementation efforts, Sen. Warner also presented the Attorney General with the following questions:

  1.  Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?
  2. Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?
  3. What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach? 
  4. What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?
  5. What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

The Ashanti Alert Act was named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017, whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate in December 6, 2018 by working with his colleagues to make modifications to the House bill, which was introduced by then-Congressman Scott Taylor and had previously been blocked from passing the Senate. The bill was then signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2019.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

March 21, 2019

 

The Honorable William Barr  

Attorney General 

U.S. Department of Justice 

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530 

 

Dear Attorney General Barr,

 

I write to respectfully request an update from the Department of Justice regarding the status of implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. As you are aware, on December 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401). The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. Last Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives secured strong bipartisan support for the legislation and it passed both chambers by a near-unanimous margin.

 

As you know, the Ashanti Alert, similar to other missing person alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in searching for the missing person, helping to save lives. This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19 year old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.

 

It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives. Last year, Virginia passed legislation of its own to create an Ashanti Alert network and issued its first alert last month. Extending this effort to all 50 states is, of course, a difficult and comprehensive undertaking. I strongly urge that you direct senior Department officials to prioritize implementation at the federal level.

 

Under the new law, the Attorney General must designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks. Called the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, he or she would be responsible for consulting with the Secretary of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, Assistant Secretary for Aging of the Department of Health and Human Services, and other DOJ offices in coordinating activities to support Ashanti Alerts. The Coordinator is also expected provide an annual report to Congress detailing the states that are in the process of establishing or have already established Ashanti Alerts and information on Ashanti Alert use in states. 

 

As you move forward with implementation of this law, I ask that you provide me an update on the status of your efforts. More specifically: 

 

·         Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?

·         Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?

·         What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach? 

·         What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?

·         What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

 

I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.

 

I look forward to hearing back from you with this information by April 21, 2019. If I can be of assistance in addressing implementation challenges at your agency, please contact Nicholas Devereux on my staff at (202) 224-2023. Thank you again for your efforts to prioritize the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act and to fully leverage the potential of this opportunity to transform the lives and safety of Americans.

 

Sincerely,

###

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement on the President’s nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judge David J. Novak for the vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division following Judge Henry E. Hudson’s decision to take senior status: 

 “We are pleased that the President has nominated Judge Novak to fill the vacancy. Based on Mr. Novak’s distinguished record, we are confident he would serve capably on the bench. We hope our colleagues will join us to support this well-qualified nominee.”

In September, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Trump, recommending Judge Novak for the vacancy. Mr. Novak has served as U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District since 2012. He was previously nominated to fill a seat in the Richmond Division during the 110th Congress, but his nomination expired before Congress could confirm him. 

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) urged his Senate colleagues to oppose President Trump’s nomination of William Barr to serve as Attorney General.

In his floor remarks, Sen. Warner questioned Barr’s independence, citing the unsolicited memo that Barr authored and provided to the President’s legal team last June attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Emphasizing the need for an Attorney General who will protect the Special Counsel’s investigation from political interference, Sen. Warner brought up Barr’s problematically expansive views on the appropriate use of presidential pardons and questioned whether they factored into the President’s decision to nominate Barr for the position. 

Additionally, Sen. Warner raised concerns about Barr’s stances on a number of policy issues, ranging from LGBTQ equality and the role of government in women’s reproductive health care, to Barr’s support of mandatory minimum sentences and the President’s “Muslim ban.” 

Sen. Warner has been outspoken about the danger of confirming a nominee who was handpicked by the President to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation. He recently wrote an op-ed calling for this nomination to be withdrawn. 

 

 

Below are the remarks as prepared for delivery:

 

Mr. President I rise today to oppose the nomination of William Barr to be Attorney General that the Senate will be taking up later today.

 

I do have a number of concerns about this nominee on policy grounds. I echo what my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee have said about Mr. Barr’s troubling record on important issues affecting Americans’ constitutional freedoms. 

 

He’s advocated for harsh mandatory minimum sentences, as well as the President’s Muslim Ban.

 

I also have serious concerns about his past statements about LGBTQ equality and the role of government in women’s reproductive health care.

 

As one telling example, he testified in his 1991 confirmation hearing that “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” 

 

On all of these issues, he is entirely out of step with the views of the American public.

 

But for me, this is not simply an objection on policy grounds.

 

Nor is it a question of Mr. Barr’s experience. As a former attorney general, Mr. Barr has long been well-respected within the legal community.

 

But frankly, the nominee for our nation’s highest law enforcement position must be measured by more than his résumé.

 

Instead, this is a question of Mr. Barr’s fidelity to our Constitution.

 

I find Mr. Barr’s actions in the months leading up to his nomination to be deeply disturbing. And as a result, I have serious doubts about this nominee’s independence and willingness to stand up for the rule of law.  

 

Last June, Mr. Barr wrote a secret, unsolicited memo attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice by the president, which Mr. Barr then passed to administration officials.

 

In November, President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions after months of public abuse over the Mueller investigation.

 

For a temporary replacement, he chose Matt Whitaker, whose primary qualification appears to be an op-ed he wrote decrying the scope of the Mueller probe.

 

With Mr. Barr’s nomination, it has become clear that the president’s sole concern is choosing a new attorney general who will shield him from the special counsel’s investigation. And Mr. Barr’s memo looks much more like a job application.

 

This President has repeatedly dangled the possibility of pardoning potential witnesses in the Special Counsel’s investigation.

 

Now, in Mr. Barr, the President has a nominee who has been outspoken about his expansive views on the appropriate use of the pardon powers.

 

Let’s be very clear. Any attempt by this President to pardon himself, his family, or key witnesses in the Mueller or SDNY investigations would represent an abuse of power that would require a response by Congress.

 

Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation has led to numerous indictments and convictions, including that of the president’s own campaign chairman.

 

It must continue free from political interference until it gets to the truth, and its findings must be released to Congress and the American public.

 

Under our constitutional system, no one is above the law, not even the president. We need an attorney general willing to vigorously defend this principle.

 

Consequently, I will oppose the nomination.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) praised final passage in Congress of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults. The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.  

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in the search. 

“In the wake of an unspeakable tragedy, Meltony and Brandy Billie did something extraordinary: they channeled grief into a determination that other families would be spared the anguish of losing a loved one like they did Ashanti. Though no one can ever erase their pain, I hope it comforts them now to know that Ashanti’s death will not have been in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “Ashanti’s memory will carry on in the lives that will be saved through this new alert system.”

“If you knew Ashanti, then you knew that you had a friend. I have said often that she never met a stranger. Though it has been hard coping with her leaving me, her earthly father, I have great joy knowing that she is with her heavenly Father and one day we will see one another again. I am eternally grateful for her life—a life well lived—because through the Ashanti Alert Act lives will be saved,” said Meltony Billie, father of Ashanti Billie. “I thank my family for carrying me when I began to weaken, I want to thank Michael Muhammad, Kimberly Wimbish, Attorney Don Scott, Delegate Jay Jones and his team, Congressman Scott Taylor and his team, Senator Mark Warner and his team, and I dare not forget about the Hampton Roads Community, and everyone who has being praying for my family.”

“We are elated that this legislation has been enacted. Just because my daughter's life was tragically cut short, that doesn't mean that my time as a mother, her mother is over; far from it. This federal legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act, is the first step in my current journey without my daughter by my side. The Ashanti Alert will be a beacon of hope for those that have a loved one deemed as missing under questionable circumstances. Our dream is to bring as many as possible of those missing back home safely,” said Brandy Billie, mother of Ashanti Billie. “I feel that Ashanti has been an angel watching not only over me, but guiding all those that have helped us. From day one the local community in the Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Norfolk area have welcomed us as family and helped in our search for our daughter, and we say thank you. To our team Michael Muhammad, Don Scott and Kim Wimbish who have never left our side since day one, we say thank you. To all law enforcement and FBI personnel, we say thank you. To all the news outlets that have kept her story alive, we say thank you. To Delegate Jay Jones, Congressman Scott Taylor and Senator Mark Warner, we say thank you. Through the prayer, determination, and work of such a diverse village, the Ashanti Alert Act has come to be and will save lives.”

“This law will save lives. It closes a glaring gap in our present alert system. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Mark Warner on the Ashanti Alert Act and championed its quick passage through Congress.  This law will create a real-time alert system for missing adults, providing vital information to first responders and helping save lives,” said Blumenthal.  “Ashanti’s family should be commended for sharing her story, and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action.  Their strength and advocacy will help prevent other families from going through similar tragedies,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller. 

“The NAACP is proud to support this crucial legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.  “We are grateful to Senator Warner and Congressman Taylor for taking the lead and filling in a gap in our Nation’s safety protections.  Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.”  

“We are grateful to Senator Warner for working with the FOP to improve this legislation to make Ashanti Alerts an effective tool for law enforcement and the public.  Without his leadership, I do not think this bill would have gotten through the Congress,” said Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police.

"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.  "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."

“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie.  We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.”

“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”

In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor. After the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing in the Senate, Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage by unanimous consent in that chamber. This version of the bill has now passed the House and will head to the President’s desk for signature.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) praised final passage in Congress of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults. The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in the search.

“In the wake of an unspeakable tragedy, Meltony and Brandy Billie did something extraordinary: they channeled grief into a determination that other families would be spared the anguish of losing a loved one like they did Ashanti. Though no one can ever erase their pain, I hope it comforts them now to know that Ashanti’s death will not have been in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “Ashanti’s memory will carry on in the lives that will be saved through this new alert system.”

“If you knew Ashanti, then you knew that you had a friend. I have said often that she never met a stranger. Though it has been hard coping with her leaving me, her earthly father, I have great joy knowing that she is with her heavenly Father and one day we will see one another again. I am eternally grateful for her life—a life well lived—because through the Ashanti Alert Act lives will be saved,” said Meltony Billie, father of Ashanti Billie. “I thank my family for carrying me when I began to weaken, I want to thank Michael Muhammad, Kimberly Wimbish, Attorney Don Scott, Delegate Jay Jones and his team, Congressman Scott Taylor and his team, Senator Mark Warner and his team, and I dare not forget about the Hampton Roads Community, and everyone who has being praying for my family.”

“We are elated that this legislation has been enacted. Just because my daughter's life was tragically cut short, that doesn't mean that my time as a mother, her mother is over; far from it. This federal legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act, is the first step in my current journey without my daughter by my side. The Ashanti Alert will be a beacon of hope for those that have a loved one deemed as missing under questionable circumstances. Our dream is to bring as many as possible of those missing back home safely,” said Brandy Billie, mother of Ashanti Billie. “I feel that Ashanti has been an angel watching not only over me, but guiding all those that have helped us. From day one the local community in the Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Norfolk area have welcomed us as family and helped in our search for our daughter, and we say thank you. To our team Michael Muhammad, Don Scott and Kim Wimbish who have never left our side since day one, we say thank you. To all law enforcement and FBI personnel, we say thank you. To all the news outlets that have kept her story alive, we say thank you. To Delegate Jay Jones, Congressman Scott Taylor and Senator Mark Warner, we say thank you. Through the prayer, determination, and work of such a diverse village, the Ashanti Alert Act has come to be and will save lives.”

“This law will save lives. It closes a glaring gap in our present alert system. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Mark Warner on the Ashanti Alert Act and championed its quick passage through Congress.  This law will create a real-time alert system for missing adults, providing vital information to first responders and helping save lives,” said Blumenthal.  “Ashanti’s family should be commended for sharing her story, and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action.  Their strength and advocacy will help prevent other families from going through similar tragedies,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller.

“The NAACP is proud to support this crucial legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.  “We are grateful to Senator Warner and Congressman Taylor for taking the lead and filling in a gap in our Nation’s safety protections.  Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.” 

“We are grateful to Senator Warner for working with the FOP to improve this legislation to make Ashanti Alerts an effective tool for law enforcement and the public.  Without his leadership, I do not think this bill would have gotten through the Congress,” said Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police.

"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.  "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."

“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie.  We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.”

“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”

In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor. After the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing in the Senate, Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage by unanimous consent in that chamber. This version of the bill has now passed the House and will head to the President’s desk for signature.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today cast his vote in support of bipartisan legislation that would reform the federal criminal justice system.

“While this measure is not a cure-all for the problems that plague our criminal justice system, this is an overdue step to improve a system that still imprisons too many people – particularly people of color – for committing nonviolent crimes. Instead, this bill will allow law enforcement to redirect taxpayer resources toward catching and punishing dangerous and violent criminals,” said Sen. Warner. 

The First Step Act, a bipartisan bill to lower the recidivism rate and reduce sentences for certain nonviolent offenders, tonight passed the Senate in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. The compromise legislation has support from a broad range of Democrats and Republicans, including President Trump, and has been endorsed by a number of law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police (the nation’s largest police group), as well as the National District Attorneys Association, the American Bar Association, and the National Governors Association. 

Some of the changes included the First Step Act include: 

  • Under the bill, offenders who are deemed to be at low risk to commit more crimes will be given incentives to reduce their sentences and access to evidence-based programs (like drug treatment) to better prepare them to return to their neighborhoods and become productive members of the community.
  • The bill also contains a number of sentencing reforms: for instance, it gives federal judges more discretion in sentencing low-level non-violent offenders who cooperate with the government, so that the sentence truly fits the crime. It also reduces some mandatory minimums, and makes sure that only repeat offenders are subjected to the harshest forms of sentencing, as Congress intended.
  • And for a long time, the law disproportionately targeted African Americans by punishing possession of crack cocaine at a much higher level than powder cocaine. Under this bill, those who are serving sentences under those old, outdated federal laws can petition for sentence reductions – if they have a record of good behavior, and meet other qualifications.   

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives, which earlier this year passed a similar bill in a broad bipartisan vote.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults.

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems to assist law enforcement in the search.

“Ashanti’s tragic death should not be in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “We must give law enforcement agencies and communities across the country the tools they need to locate missing adults and save more lives.”

“I’m grateful to the family of Ashanti Billie for sharing her story with me and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action.  I’m proud to work with Senator Warner on this important legislation to create a real time alert system for missing adults, which will provide vital information to first responders and help save lives,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  “I urge my House colleagues to pass this revised bill before the end of the year.” Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller. 

"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.  "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."

“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie.  We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.”

“The NAACP is proud to support Senator Warner’s legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.”

“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”

In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor.

Sen. Warner spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to urge his colleagues to work with him to ensure the Ashanti Alert Act becomes law after the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing. Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage.  Tonight, at Sen. Warner’s request, the bill was discharged from the Senate Judiciary Committee, modified, and then passed by unanimous consent on the Senate floor. Following its passage in the Senate, the bill now heads back to the House.

The full text of the amended bill can be found here.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the below statement following the Canadian government’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei:

“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party – and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion,’ is no exception. It has been clear for some time that Huawei, like ZTE, poses a threat to our national security. Now we know that Huawei, like ZTE, has violated U.S. sanctions law. It's my hope that the Trump Administration will hold Huawei fully accountable for breaking sanctions law, as it failed to do in the case of ZTE. 

“This is a reminder that we need to take seriously the risks of doing business with companies like Huawei and allowing them access to our markets. I continue to strongly urge our close ally Canada to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of its 5G infrastructure.” 

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, has long expressed concerns about the risks to our national security posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies.

On October 12, 2018, Sen. Warner and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his country to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.

In September, Sen. Warner joined several colleagues to introduce the ZTE Enforcement Review and Oversight (ZERO) Act. The bipartisan bill would enforce full compliance by ZTE—a Chinese state-directed telecommunications firm that repeatedly violated U.S. laws – with all probationary conditions outlined in a Commerce Department deal with the company that lifted a denial order banning the export of U.S. parts and components.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults.

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems to assist law enforcement in the search.

“Ashanti’s tragic death should not be in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “We must give law enforcement agencies and communities across the country the tools they need to locate missing adults and save more lives.” 

“I’m grateful to the family of Ashanti Billie for sharing her story with me and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action.  I’m proud to work with Senator Warner on this important legislation to create a real time alert system for missing adults, which will provide vital information to first responders and help save lives,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  “I urge my House colleagues to pass this revised bill before the end of the year.” Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller.  

"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.  "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."

“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie.  We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.” 

“The NAACP is proud to support Senator Warner’s legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.”

“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”

In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor.

Sen. Warner spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to urge his colleagues to work with him to ensure the Ashanti Alert Act becomes law after the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing. Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage.  Tonight, at Sen. Warner’s request, the bill was discharged from the Senate Judiciary Committee, modified, and then passed by unanimous consent on the Senate floor. Following its passage in the Senate, the bill now heads back to the House.

 

The full text of the amended bill can be found here.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement on Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen's guilty plea on charges of lying to the Intelligence Committee and other Congressional investigators about his involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project during the 2016 election:

“This is yet another example of the President's closest allies lying about their contacts with Russia. With each indictment and each guilty plea, we learn more about the President’s connections to Russia in the midst of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Special Counsel Mueller's investigation must continue — free from political interference by the President — until the truth is out, and Congress should pass legislation immediately to make sure that happens.” 

 

###

 

Washington, DC – Top Senate and House Democrats today released a new letter to the Department of Justice’s Chief Ethics Official, Assistant Attorney General Lee J. Lofthus, in which they outline the number of serious ethical considerations that should preclude any involvement by President Trump’s handpicked Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker with the Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and that require Mr. Whitaker’s immediate recusal. In the letter, the Democrats also request that the Department of Justice’s chief ethics officer immediately notify them whether he has advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse himself from supervision of the special counsel’s investigation.

The letter, signed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, includes a number of examples of Mr. Whitaker’s many conflicts of interest and hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. These include Mr. Whitaker’s televised statement suggesting that the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations on its scope, a published online opinion piece referring to the investigation as a witch hunt, and a statement in which he pre-judged the outcome of the investigation.

 

The full text of the Democrats’ letter can be found here and below: 

 

November 11, 2018

 

The Honorable Lee J. Lofthus
Assistant Attorney General for Administration 

  and Designated Agency Ethics Officer

Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Assistant Attorney General Lofthus:

We are writing to you in your capacity as the Justice Department’s Designated Agency Ethics Official regarding the supervision of Special Counsel Robert Mueller by Mr. Mark Whitaker, the newly appointed Acting Attorney General.  There are serious ethical considerations that require Mr. Whitaker’s immediate recusal from any involvement with the Special Counsel investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.  

 

Mr. Whitaker has a history of hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, including televised statements suggesting that the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations on its scope.  On June 9, 2017—not even a month after the Special Counsel was appointed—Mr. Whitaker stated on a radio show:  “There is no criminal obstruction of justice charge to be had here.  The evidence is weak.  No reasonable prosecutor would bring a case.”[1]

 

On July 26, 2017, Mr. Whitaker stated that he “could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”[2]  Mr. Whitaker has also made reference to the Special Counsel investigation as “a mere witch hunt” and published an opinion article entitled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far” in which he argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should place limits on the scope of the investigation.[3]  He has even claimed publicly that “[t]he left is trying to sow this theory that essentially Russians interfered with the U.S. election. Which has been proven false. They did not have any impact in the election that is very clear from the Obama Administration.”[4]  This statement demonstrates plainly that Mr. Whitaker has pre-judged the outcome of the Special Counsel investigation.

In addition to his public criticism of the Special Counsel investigation, Mr. Whitaker appears to have troubling conflicts of interest that may also require his recusal from the investigation.  In 2014, Mr. Whitaker served as chairman of the campaign of Sam Clovis to be Iowa State Treasurer, and Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Clovis have reportedly remained in close contact.[5]  Mr. Clovis served as a national co-chairman of the Trump presidential campaign, and in that capacity supervised George Papadopoulos, the Trump foreign policy advisor who sought to set up a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, and who has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with agents of the Russian government.[6] As you know, following advice from career Department ethics officials, Attorney General Sessions recused from the Special Counsel investigation given his senior role on the Trump campaign and a series of undisclosed contacts with Russian government officials.[7] 

The official supervising the Special Counsel investigation must be – in both fact and appearance – independent and impartial.  Regrettably, Mr. Whitaker’s statements indicate a clear bias against the investigation that would cause a reasonable person to question his impartiality.  Allowing a vocal opponent of the investigation to oversee it will severely undermine public confidence in the Justice Department’s work on this critically important matter.  Mr. Whitaker’s relationship with Mr. Clovis, who is a grand jury witness in the Special Counsel investigation, as well as Mr. Whitaker’s other entanglements, raise additional concerns about his ability to supervise the investigation independently and impartially.  

For these reasons, we request that you immediately notify us in writing regarding whether you, or any other ethics officials at the Justice Department, have advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse from supervision of the Special Counsel investigation, and the basis for that recommendation.  We also request that you provide us all ethics guidance the Department has provided to Mr. Whitaker to date.

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

Democratic Leader

U.S. Senate

 

Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Dianne Feinstein

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. Senate

 

Jerrold Nadler

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Mark R. Warner

Vice Chairman

Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. Senate

 

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Elijah Cummings

Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight &

Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

 

###

 

 

 



[1] The David Webb Show (June 9, 2017) (online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYQzupQzNOQ).

[2] CNN Tonight, CNN (July 26, 2017) (online at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1707/26/cnnt.01.html).

[3] Matthew Whitaker, Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far, CNN (Aug. 6, 2017) (online at www.cnn.com/2017/08/06/opinions/rosenstein-should-curb-mueller-whittaker-opinion/index.html).

[4] The Chosen Generation Radio Program (Mar. 3, 2017) (online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCA120DtAhI).

[5] See, e.g.Whitaker’s Friendship with Trump Aide Reignites Recusal Debate, Reuters (Nov. 8, 2018) (online at www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-whitaker/whitakers-friendship-with-trump-aide-reignites-recusal-debate-idUSKCN1ND2SN).

[6] Statement of the Offense, United States v. Papadopoulos (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 2017) (online at www.justice.gov/file/1007346/download).

[7] Attorney General Sessions Statement on Recusal, Department of Justice (Mar. 2, 2017) (online at www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-statement-recusal).